By Tyler King
Canadian Baseball Network
“... You simply cannot take him out of the rotation.”
That was the advice MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi had for the Blue Jays regarding Joe Biagini, as expressed during a radio interview on the FAN 590 last Tuesday.
If you are partial to the Jays, that should probably be your advice too, seeing as Biagini has been the team’s best starter since he joined the rotation on May 7.
In case you feel I’m being flippant, or that I’m simply deluded, allow me to repeat myself ... Joe Biagini - yes, the same Joe Biagini that was a lowly Rule 5 pick back in 2015 - has been the Jays' BEST starter.
The reason you may be rolling your eyes at that remark (or possibly closing your browser window) is because Biagini’s success, for whatever reason, has been kept relatively quiet.
It is the intention of this article to turn up that volume.
The first stop on our journey to enlightenment is Biagini’s career numbers. In 123-2/3 big league innings (pitching in parts of 81 games), Biagini has posted an ERA of 3.20, and a WHIP of 1.17.
Other than Aaron Sanchez, that’s the lowest career ERA and WHIP among current Jays starters.
Incredibly, Biagini has only given up six home runs over those 123-2/3 innings. To give that some context, you should consider that 129 pitchers have allowed seven or more home runs this year alone.
So far in 2017, Biagini has an ERA of 3.38, along with a remarkable WHIP of 1.02. He’s given up a mere three home runs, walked 12, and struck out 48.
Only 12 American League pitchers with more than 50 innings pitched have a lower ERA than Biagini this season ... and only four have a lower WHIP (those four pitchers, in case you were curious, are Dallas Keuchel, Ervin Santana, Chris Sale, and Carlo Carrasco - which, I’d say, puts him in some pretty decent company).
Biagini has made seven starts spanning 37-1/3 innings this year (he also threw 18-2/3 innings as a reliever). While pitching out of the rotation, he has held opposing batters to a .208 average. Only four qualified AL starters have lower opponent batting averages.
Now you may be inclined to point out that Marcus Stroman and Sanchez have better ERAs than Biagini this season (3.09 and 3.33 respectively). But if you look at some of their other numbers, one sees that Biagini has been, if nothing else, much more well-rounded.
Stroman in particular has been flirting with danger all year, as opponents have managed to hit .271 off him. There are only two other qualified starters in the entire MLB with opponents averages over .270 but ERAs under 4.00. It is therefore likely that, given enough time, either Stroman’s ERA will have to go up or that batting average will have to come down ... one can only hope it’s the latter.
Sanchez has only thrown 24-1/3 innings, making any recent comparison unreliable, however for what it’s worth he has allowed four home runs and walked nine batters while also posting a .237 opponents average this season.
Estrada, Happ, and Liriano have all struggled at times as well, and each of their ERAs are over 4.30. But, sheer numbers aside, there are still other reasons why you should want to see Biagini continue in the rotation at all costs.
One such reason is that in his brief career Biagini has absolutely dominated the AL East. Over 56-1/3 innings against divisional opponents, he has an ERA of 2.71.
With 44 more games against the Yankees, Orioles, Red Sox and Rays, the Jays are going to need numbers like those to climb out from the cellar.
And, god-willing, if the Jays are in any sort of race come September you do not need to worry about Biagini buckling under pressure. Not only does he exude the persona of a quirky, un-rattleable guy, he was also one of the most underrated relievers of the 2016 postseason.
In 7-1/3 playoff innings last year, Biagini did not allow a single run. He gave up only three hits and one walk.
I suppose the last myth left to dispel is that his current 1-4 record as a starter somehow disqualifies him from the rotation. Thankfully, that’s easy to do when you consider the shocking lack of run support he has received.
The Jays have averaged a paltry 2.4 runs per game over Biagini’s seven starts. They have never scored more than four runs in a game, but have scored two or less in three of those seven starts
Based on all those factors, one should take Morosi’s advice to the Blue Jays literally ...
To remove Biagini from the rotation at this point would be sheer lunacy.
Follow Tyler and #Section108 on Twitter: @TylerJoseph108